Underworld Revisit “Art-School Roots"

Eclectic mixup
includes exclusive Brian Eno / Karl
Hyde collaboration.


By Blurt Staff


Underworld will
temporarily ditch the electro and techno scenes in order to pay tribute to
their art-school roots on their new compilation album, Athens, due Nov. 24 from !K7. Quirkily
co-billed as “Underworld Vs The Misterons, it’s the first in a series that serves up a mix packed with rare grooves
and cult gems from the outer limits of dance music, jazz-rock, fusion and
progressive pop. The nom du rawk album
credit represents a collective alter ego which includes the group’s core
members Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, their regular studio and live collaborator
Darren Price, plus creative mastermind Steven Hall. Ranging far and wide across
musical genres and eras, this music will appeal equally to vinyl-loving
connoisseurs and arty party hedonists. The grooves are still funky, but the
vibes are warm and soulful, with more live instruments than sequencers or drum

“The overall mood is jazz and improvisation,” Underworld explain. “There is
very little playing in a lot of people’s records in the dance and DJ world
these days, but one thing Underworld have always liked is musicianship. It
doesn’t stop us loving machine music and house music and everything that goes
with it, but the idea with this album was to highlight records we liked that we
thought had great live playing on them.”

Athens is a study in range and contrast. From the immersive, cosmic tone poems of Alice Coltrane’s “Journey In
Satchidananda” to the seductive, snaking groove of “Space
Odyssey” by techno titan Carl
Craig’s orchestral jazz offshoot Detroit
Experiment. From the mystical psychedelic blues of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “You Know,
You Know” to the spicy Afro-funk of Laurent Garnier’s “Gnaumankoudji.” And from the
avant-garde mellowness of Squarepusher’s
“Theme From Sprite” to the bustling disco-funk crosstown traffic of
“New York City”
by Miroslav Vitous. The musical
agenda is limitless, the rhythms infectious, the mood hypnotic.

Underworld themselves appear twice on the album, in slightly different guises.
The first is their jazz-textured instrumental “Oh,” originally heard
on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s 1997 film A Life Less Ordinary. “We
are often painted as a techno act,” the band explain, “but we like to think
we’ve been much broader than that musically. You do become stereotyped, so for
us it is nice to get pieces like this out and show that we can recontextualise
our sound. We’ve never tried to make current, trendy techno records. We’ve
always tried to make something more adventurous and timeless than that.”

Karl also delivers one of his signature stream-of-consciousness raps on the
album’s climactic cut, “Beebop Hurry,” a collaboration with the legendary polymath producer Brian Eno
conceived during sessions for Eno’s Luminous Festival of experimental music,
which was held at the Sydney Opera House in May and June 2009. A vivid blast of
liquid beats and jazzy electronica, this fantastic new work has never been released before.

“This was part of an exploration period of Karl and Brian trying some idea
together,” the band explain, “before they went off to Sydney, Underworld and
Brian got together to do some pieces in the studio. This was a track from those
sessions that we thought fitted the concept we had anyway. We’ve got a very
broad definition of jazz.”

A younger version of Eno can also be heard elsewhere on the album, in the Roxy Music classic “2HB,” an
achingly romantic torch song from the band’s eponymous 1972 debut album. The
vibrant British art-rock scene of the early 1970s, often overlooked by pop
historians, was one of the key inspirations behind the musical selection and
creative input on Athens.
Indeed, Soft Machine’s
intoxicating jazz-rock instrumental “Penny Hitch” from 1973 was the
original catalyst for the entire project and the cover artwork is a painting by Karl Hyde himself.

“The Soft Machine track was the starting point of the concept of the whole
compilation,” say Underworld. “A few years ago we wanted to try and mix a load
of Soft Machine material, so we tried to get record companies interested, but
nothing could ever be arranged. They are a band that people should listen to
now because so much of what we now think of as techno appears in a lot of Soft
Machine stuff. Their use of early synths was incredible.”




01 Alice
         Journey In Satchidananda feat.
Pharoah Sanders
02 Mahavishnu Orchestra         You
Know, You Know
         Theme From Sprite
04 Soft
           Penny Hitch
05 Roxy Music           
06 Detroit
  Space Odyssey
07 Moodyman           
08 Osunlade           
    The Promise
09 Underworld           
10 Laurent
       Gnanmankoudji (Broken-Afro Mix)
11 Miroslav
        New York City
12 Brian Eno & Karl
Hyde          Beebop Hurry



Hear a sample of the Eno / Hyde track on the official Underworld’s Site ,


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